In a surprise turn, the NBA is pulling back on its salary-cap projection for the 2017-18 season, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN, and it could complicate the Golden State Warriors' efforts to keep their new super team together.
The league previously projected the 2017-18 cap to hit $107 million but lowered that number to $102 million Thursday and lowered the luxury-tax-line projection from $127 million to $122 million.
This will affect teams' planning for 2017 free agency -- specifically the Warriors. Kevin Durant is signing a contract Thursday that will allow him to re-enter the market as a free agent next summer. Because the Warriors will not have his full rights at that time, they will have to create $33.5 million in cap space if Durant wants a new max contract.
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala are also scheduled to be free agents next summer. The Warriors retain both players' full rights, but it will be a challenge to re-sign them while also leaving room for Durant. That challenge was just projected to be $5 million more difficult.
It is noteworthy that these projections are based on the current collective bargaining agreement. Both the NBA and the players' union have an option to end the agreement by Dec. 15. If either side opts out, it would not affect the 2016-17 season. The sides have been in talks about a new agreement for months, and new terms could change all the projections.
The players currently receive up to 51 percent of the basketball-related income, which this year topped $6.5 billion. There was a shortfall, and the owners returned a record $130 million to the players. In the memo sent Thursday, the NBA projected a shortfall next year of $200 million that would be sent to the players.